On November 25th, 1999, the Pelagos Agreement, creating the Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals, was signed in Rome by France, Italy and the Principality of Monaco, where the project was officially registered. Having come into effect on February 21th, 2002, the Agreement seeks to enable the three countries to create jointly coordinated initiatives to protect cetaceans and their habitats from all sources of disturbance: pollution, noise, accidental capture and injury, disruption etc. Click to download the text of the Agreement in pdf French version pdf  or in pdf Italian version pdf .

The idea of creating a Sanctuary in the Corso-Liguro-Provençal Basin is the result of relatively large and diverse populations of marine mammals being observed in the 1980s in the area, attracted by high primary productivity.

An array of fertilization mechanisms is responsible for this higher level of primary productivity: the coastal waters, the delayed effect of mixed winter fluxes, the frontal zone, upwelling phenomena and complex structures that combine divergent and convergent features.

A rough estimate puts the number of macroscopic animal species at 8,500, representing between 4% and 18% of marine species worldwide, which shows a remarkable level of biodiversity, especially in terms of the number of predators at the top of the food chain such as marine mammals, given that the Mediterranean accounts for just 0.82% of the area and 0.32% of the volume of the world’s oceans.

In addition, the same location is subject to increased pressure that is associated with a range of human activities and creates serious problems for any populations of marine mammals that are present. Among other factors, these effects are the result of certain fishing techniques, pollution, urbanization, ship strikes and whale-watching activities. Natural disturbances (climate variation, disease outbreaks etc.) also play a role alongside such human disturbances.

The process of creating the Sanctuary was developed in Italy by non-governmental organizations and completed internationally when the countries involved became aware that marine mammals could be protected only through the integrated management of the Sanctuary.

As the Sanctuary project grew into fruition, a number of research centers, universities, non-governmental organizations, groups and marine professionals took part in national and international meetings alongside public sector involvement. Brought together by their research and work on population monitoring as well as their respective countries and media initiatives, they sought to make the process of creating the Sanctuary more straightforward for decision-makers. The story of the Sanctuary is one of continued collaboration among the different individuals and groups that enabled it to come into being.

Created in order to protect marine mammals from all sources of disturbance caused by human activity, the Sanctuary is thus intended to enable socio-economic development while providing the habitats in the area and species living there with the protection they need.

What makes the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals unique is the fact that it is a site managed by three different authorities and includes coastal areas and international waters that form a large ecosystem of major scientific, socio-economic, cultural and educational interest. The entire Sanctuary can be broadly considered to be a biogeographically distinct sub-section of the Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) that is the Mediterranean.